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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July? What’s the Big Deal?

“Mama, did you have the Fourth of July at your house when you were a little girl?”

“No, Honey, we didn’t.” Mom was getting out those wonderful sparklers that we would swing through the dark, colorfully lighting up the night around us. (No firecrackers were allowed in our hands, but my father set them off, to the loud screams and giggles of his daughters.)

“Well, Mama, I bet you did have the fourth of July in Australia but you didn’t celebrate it as your Independence Day right?” The funny thing is that my dear mother always laughed at this joke we played on her every single summer for as long as we little girls told those grade school jokes. What a trooper!

It has been seven decades now since my mother became a citizen of the United States of America; but, placing her hand over her heart when the Star Spangled Banner (our national anthem), is sung, still brings tears to her eyes. How she loves America and, therefore, the Fourth of July. So what’s the big deal?

Well, though history books are being re-written in our present climate of political changes, the story is really quite simple and amazing. The King of England was the head of the Church of England and that was the official religion practiced if one were a Protestant. Others wanted to practice their faith in another way, with less formality. They desired a different style of worship and prayer, finding that they held slightly different beliefs than those of the Church of England. Basically, they wanted not to be told how to do things when it came to church and worship of God.

Learning that a new land had been discovered across the vast ocean, those in search of religious freedom decided to suffer the discomfort of the long sail and rigors of an undeveloped land to make a new life for themselves… in a place where they could worship God in the way they desired.

Okay, so many died during the harsh conditions and, likely, many wished they’d not come at those times. Still, they pressed on and the tiny new nation grew. The colonies were attached to England in matters of supplies and, of course, that meant financial and legal ties, too. The King was not opposed to them having begun a new life in the new land but he wanted a lot more control of their affairs than was agreeable to them. The taxes he required of them were unreasonable, under their circumstances, and a lot of other issues. (You can Google this to get the details, if you like. You’ll find a complete list of their grievances, leading up to the Declaration of Independence at the government website archives. You need only enter declaration+independence in the search to get the scoop.)

As school children, we had to memorize the beginning of the Declaration of Independence in order to keep its principles in mind as we grew up. Do they even still learn that in this changing political climate? Here are those famous words:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation .We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The battle had just begun for the new United States of America. This rag-tag bunch of lawyers, accountants, clergy, farmers, pharmacists, and other craftsmen, indeed, did manage to overcome the professionally trained and equipped British army. They had no doubt at all that it was their God who had given them their victory. Now, they were free to worship in the manner they wished and, worship they did! The new citizens held national days of worship and thanksgiving to remember God in their triumph. They also held national days of fasting and repentance when things were not going well. They had learned their lessons from reading what had happened to the Israelites when they were not attentive to God. Over and over, the plagues or difficulties ended following such events, called for by the President of the United States. (If you would like more of the wonderful story, read The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshal, Jr. There are other books, too, that tell of the call to prayer by President George Washington and the miraculous results that followed.)

Another important document of our history is the United States Constitution. As children we memorized the Preamble to the Constitution. It is this paragraph that is often quoted when there is a question of whether or not it is right to permit something of a controversial nature in the country. There are those who think this paragraph gives any and all practices permission to occur within American borders. Does it? Decide for yourself.

From Legal Information Institute at Cornell University:

The Preamble to the Constitution …

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

One has to ask oneself if allowing the free, and unrestricted, practice of Islam within the borders is really to “insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense” since the Koran, their guiding document, calls for the death of all who are not committed to Islam? And is it really “justice” to threaten to jail preachers who read passages from the Bible against the practice of homosexuality from the pulpit because homosexuality is accepted in the general society today? And, how about abortion? Does the unborn child, even those who could survive outside the womb at the time of the abortion, really see that abortion will promote their general welfare… not to mention the affect such a practice has on the welfare of the mother? Can this practice really connect with the original Congress’ declaration that all people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life…” Think about it?

Many have used the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, to defend their position that prayer does not belong in the schools and the posting of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom is unlawful because they violate the separation of church and State. In fact, there is no such written documentation coming from a team of praying men who wrote the amendments and Constitution! Prayer and reading the Bible were an integral part of their administration of the new nation and all aspects of life within its borders. Read the First Amendment for yourself:

I.   Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion and Petition

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

One can plainly see that the amendment agrees that Congress will not establish a religion and will allow folks to practice their worship of God in their own way. This was the very reason that they left England and they wanted to be sure that, somewhere down the line, there wasn’t a Congress who would return them to the order of a national church with only that one option for worship. No where does it say that there should not be prayer in schools or Bible reading anywhere .

What’s the big deal? Well, for those of us who are Christians, the Declaration of Independence—and therefore, the Fourth of July—are huge reminders of just what our God has done to establish a country where freedom to practice our prayer and Bible reading has been granted by law. We need to fight as hard to keep the privilege as those men long ago fought to get the rights guaranteed. We shouldn’t assume that God will look the other way while we let Godless men and women change what our forefathers had established “under God.” This is a day to be celebrated because it is a reminder that our understanding God cares about men and women who want to worship Him in spirit and in truth! Let us give thanks!

****First-Year University: Guys and Surprises… Coming Tomorrow

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